The politics of my home state have reached Barnum&Bailey levels of absurdity. If only they were as entertaining.
Looking at the leadership of the still great state of Texas, and the political contests upcoming, one can't help but wonder how long that hackneyed phrase will still apply.
Let's begin with Governor Greg Abbott. Does anyone remember the responsible governor who mandated masks, closed schools and businesses, and deferred to local officials the decisions on their individual efforts to fight the spread of the virus? It can be difficult because that brief profile in courage vanished with the first hint of pushback from the base.
In fact, the governor, backed by our favorite walking megaphone, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, has displayed the kind of backbone usually reserved for the rest of the cephalopod family. With Patrick pointing in whatever direction the latest Trump exhale sends him, Abbott has me-too'd in reversing virtually every precaution he initially installed.
And backed by a craven legislature, is now preventing anyone in the public or private sector from putting them back in place.
He has decided that spending precious state resources on a border wall that ends at the New Mexico border, is also a priority item on his reelection agenda, no doubt recalling how effectively that worked in Berlin.
All this while understanding perfectly the dirty little secret between Republicans and Democrats concerning illegal immigration. Business loves them for the cheap labor they eagerly provide, but conservatives love the fiery anti-immigrant rhetoric. And liberals know that defending them appeals to the Hispanic base. The hypocrisy involved makes Lindsay Graham look like a beacon of consistency.
The campaign slogan should be, "A Wet Finger in the Wind for a Better Texas."
So, the epic reelection race will feature Abbott versus the ghost of Christmas past, Beto O'Rourke. O'Rourke, who folded like a cheap suitcase in the last presidential race, has always shown more promise than results. While backers see him as a Texas version of Democratic Icon Robert Kennedy, he is more like an OCD version of RFK.
With his trademark frenetic demeanor, he began his latest foray by reiterating his desire to take away guns. Whatever one's attitude toward AR15 ownership, which I find laughable, this is Texas, for crying out loud. As one who has been the communications guy for a political campaign, this opening salvo appears to me to have hit its mark, assuming that mark was his own foot.
If Abbott isn't reelected, I'll eat a bug.
What is there to say about our national team of Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz? Cornyn is obviously the more savvy of the two saying just enough to placate the base, but not enough to be considered a Gohmert-class loon.
Cruz, on the other hand, puts the cray into craven.
After bravely confronting Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries, he endured Trump's insults to his wife and father, and then bravely knelt to kiss the ring. When caught AWOL on a flight to Cancun while over 200 Texans died in the big freeze, he bravely blamed his daughters. When he dared to call January 6th an act of domestic terrorism, which it was by definition, he then bravely went on Fox to declare that he was obviously mistaken. Thus confirming the 2024 GOP nomination is safely in the hands of Tucker Carlson.
While Cruz's chances in the 2024 presidential race are roughly akin to Bobby Jindal's, locally, he will face a bunch of folks you never heard of and will no doubt be sent back by Texas voters because, well, you know, Texas.
Then there's Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. Personal note: I worked for and was a business partner with Dan, and, like Oscar Levant's comment that he knew Doris Day before she was a virgin, I actually knew Dan before he became Mr. Hyde. And, by the way, I wouldn't recommend the business partner part to anyone.
From a sportscaster who once painted himself Oiler-blue on TV, to a bar owner, radio station owner, talk show host and now the most powerful man in state government, Dan is a political bloodhound sniffing out whatever hot-button, arcane issue du-jour is sure to rile up the folks. Who knew that trans athletes and bathrooms used by them were top of mind for families dealing with the oil slump in Midland?
Well, it really doesn't matter because it was a perfect beach toy for the intellectual wading pool that is Judge Jeanine. Dan is also facing a bunch of unknowns and will safely be piously pontificating for a while longer.
Attorney General Ken Paxton versus Louie Gohmert? A crook and a crank, flip a coin. Heads you win, but there is no heads.
Now for the Texas Democratic Party, as it so quaintly still bills itself. A party that produced Democrats like Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson, Ralph Yarborough, Jack Brooks, John Connolly and Bob Bullock, hasn't elected anyone statewide since Bill Clinton was midway through his first term. It is now not so much a party as a political Jonestown with bumper stickers, and is occupied with figuring out which flavor of Kool Aid to guzzle in the next election cycle.
You're probably wondering, as you prepare to fire off a response involving the hackneyed phrase "media bias," why hasn't he complained about any Democrats other than Beto? Well, name one.
As far as prominent Texas dems, it's down to Beto and the Castro brothers, as it has been for years now. None of them are frankly going anywhere, anytime soon. Let me rephrase that to simply anywhere. Add the absolutely wretched re-districting process just completed, and the die is cast.
Texas Democrats have forgotten how to play offense, and seem content to hang on to safe seats and wait for demographics to come to their rescue.
But the demographics they count on, and we can insert the Hispanic descriptive of your choice since I refuse to use Latin-X, aren't the traditionally dependable democratic voters of old. Not as long as abortion is front and center, and republicans have made sure it is.
So, the path forward will look a lot like the path just traveled. We can count on more wailing and gnashing of teeth over CRT, cancel culture and whatever our fearless leaders deem to be "woke." None of it will matter, of course, but like distracting your toddler with jangling car keys, it will no doubt work.
There's no point in mewling about the political divide in the country and our state. It's there, and there's no one on the horizon who can bring us back to that mythical, bi-partisan time when Reagan and Tip shared a scotch after work. Just call this the musings of a hopeless boomer, and to quote a famous son of the Lone Star State, just lie back and enjoy it.